Loughlin, Giannulli plead in college scam, but fate is hazy
“Full House” star Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, pleaded guilty Friday to paying half a million dollars to get their two daughters into the University of Southern California as part of a college admissions bribery scheme, but a judge has not decided whether he’ll accept the deals they made with prosecutors.
The famous couple appeared on separate screens during their video hearing, both sitting with a lawyer, showing no emotion as the prosecutor detailed their crimes and making no comments other than to answer questions from U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton.
Under their proposed deals, Loughlin, 55, hopes to spend two months in prison and Giannulli, 56, is seeking to serve five months.
But the judge said he will decide whether to accept the deals after considering the presentencing report, a document that contains background on defendants and helps guide sentencing decisions.
Gorton did not say when he would decide but scheduled their sentencing hearings for Aug. 21.
Loughlin and Giannulli were among dozens of wealthy parents, athletic coaches and others charged last year in the bribery scheme. The parents paid hefty bribes to get their kids into top universities with bogus test scores or fake athletic credentials, authorities said.
Prosecutors announced Friday that a 54th person has been charged and will plead guilty to paying $300,000 to bribe his son’s way into Georgetown University as a tennis recruit, though he did not play tennis.
Peter Dameris, 60, of Pacific Palisades, California, will plead guilty to fraud conspiracy, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Boston, which is leading the admissions case. A hearing has not been scheduled.
Dameris, a former executive at technology services company ASGN Inc., is the 25th parent to plead guilty. His lawyer did not immediately return message seeking comment.
Loughlin and Giannulli had been scheduled to go to trial in October on charges that they got their two daughters into USC as crew recruits, even though neither girl was a rower. Prosecutors say they funneled money through a sham charity operated by college admissions consultant Rick Singer, who has pleaded guilty to orchestrating the scheme.
Prosecutors recorded phone calls and emails showing the couple worked with Singer to get their daughters into USC with fake athletic profiles depicting them as star rowers. In one email, Singer told Loughlin and Giannulli he needed a picture of their older daughter on a rowing machine in workout clothes “like a real athlete.”
Giannulli responded, according to the court filings: “Fantastic. Will get all” and sent Singer the photo.
Prosecutors also had a bogus resume presented to USC that falsely claimed their younger daughter, social media star Olivia Jade, rowed in prestigious competitions like the Head of the Charles. Singer and the former coach he paid to create Jade’s fake athletic profile are cooperating with investigators and were expected to testify against the couple at trial.
Loughlin has also agreed to pay a $150,000 fine and perform 100 hours of community service. Giannulli has agreed to pay a $250,000 fine and perform 250 hours of community service.
Loughlin pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud. Giannulli pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud and honest services wire and mail fraud. Prosecutors agreed to dismiss charges of money laundering and federal programs bribery that were added after the case was filed.
Loughlin and Giannulli insisted for over a year that they were innocent and that they believed their payments were legitimate donations to the school or Singer’s charity.
They accused prosecutors of withholding evidence that would exonerate them and claimed investigators had sought to trick parents into incriminating themselves. The judge this month r ejected the defense’s bid to dismiss the case over allegations of misconduct by federal agents.
Legal analyst Peter Elikann called the deal on the table a low-risk proposition for Loughlin and Giannulli.
“If the judge doesn’t want to do the sentence that they agreed upon with the prosecution, then they’re allowed to back out. So it’s what we call in the legal profession, a free bite at the apple,” said Elikann, a longtime criminal defense attorney who teaches criminal law at Bridgewater State University. “The judge either goes ahead and accepts what they do or what they want, or they can back out and they live to fight another day.”
An attorney for the couple declined to comment this week.
Others who have admitted to participating in the scheme include “Desperate Housewives” actress Felicity Huffman, who paid $15,000 to have someone rig her daughter’s entrance exam. Huffman was sentenced to two weeks in prison.
AP video journalist Rodrique Ngowi contributed to this story.